By Eleanor Davis (Toon Books/Raw Junior)
ISBN: 978-0-9799238-4-5

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Smells Like a True Favourite… 9/10

Once upon a time – and for the longest time imaginable – comics were denigrated as a creative and narrative ghetto cherished only by children and simpletons. For decades the producers, creators and lovers of the medium struggled to change that perception and gradually acceptance came.

These days most folk accept that word and pictures in sequential union can make stories and tell truths as valid, challenging and life-changing as any other full-blown art-form.

Sadly, along the way the commercial underpinnings of the industry fell away and they won’t be coming back…

Where once there were a host of successful, self-propagating comics scrupulously generating tales and delights intended to entertain, inform and educate such specific demographics as Toddler/Kindergarten, Young and Older Juvenile, General, Boys and Girls periodical publications, nowadays Britain, America and most of Europe can only afford to maintain a few paltry out-industry licensed tie-ins and spin-offs for younger readerships.

The greater proportion of strip magazines are necessarily manufactured for a highly specific – and dwindling – niche market, whilst the genres that fed and nurtured comics are more effectively and expansively disseminated via TV, movies and assorted games media.

Thankfully old-fashioned book publishers and the graphic novel industry have a different business model and far more sensible long-term goals, so the lack has been increasingly countered and the challenge to train and bring youngsters into the medium taken up outside the mainstream – and dying – periodical markets.

I’ve banged on for years about the industry’s foolish rejection of the beginner-reading markets, but what most publishers have been collectively offering young/early consumers – and their parents (excepting, most notably the magnificent efforts of David Fickling Books and their wonderful comic The Phoenix) – has seldom jibed with what those incredibly selective consumers are interested in or need.

In recent years however the book trade has moved with the times and where numerous publishing houses have opened comic medium divisions, one in particular has gone all-out to cultivate tomorrow’s graphic narrative nation.

Toon Books/Raw Junior was established by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly as an imprint of the groundbreaking and legendary alternative magazine to provide high-quality comics stories to entice pre-schoolers and starter-readers into a lifelong love affair with strips in particular and reading in general.

Their burgeoning stable of talented creators have produced a wealth of superbly superior comic tales in three accredited educational standards (Level 1: First Comic for brand new readers, Level 2: Easy-to-Read for Emerging Readers and Level 3: Chapter Books for Advanced Beginners) and the company even supplements their publications with an online tool. offers follow up such as interactive audio-versions read by the authors – and in a multitude of languages – and a “cartoon maker” facility which allows readers to become writers of their own adventures about the characters they have just met in the printed editions. Many books include a page of tips for parents and teachers on ‘How to Read Comics with Kids’

This particular yarn from Eleanor Davis sticks tight to traditional fare winningly rendered as she introduces a gloomy, anxious swamp monster whose smelly, dank world of pickled onions, possums, slugs, toads and especially stench seems likely to be upset forever after new neighbours move in…

There’s a town near the swamp and in it are kids. Kids who like baths and eat cake smell weird…

Stinky is especially nervous of a new kid. Somehow he’s even worse than the others. He’s called Nick, eats apples, likes toads and is building a tree house in Stinky’s swamp! Determined to drive off the newcomer, the moist monster undertakes a campaign of terror but the little human pest just accepts all the nasty surprises and keeps on building…

And thus begins an epic struggle which will result in a most unique friendship…

Gently hilarious, beautifully illustrated and heart-warmingly proving that it takes all sorts to make a world, Stinky is a fabulous walk on the wild side you’ll find impossible to forget – especially as your hosts have been kind enough to provide you with a detailed map to follow…
© 2008 RAW Junior, LLC. All rights reserved.

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